review already shot footage to which producers could not oblige. Russell kept the picture together and with the help of friend Sylvester Stallone, brought in Cobra and Rambo II director George P. Cosmatos to finish the film. Along with Cosmatos came young writer John Fasano (Another 48 Hours) who was also working for Vajna's Cinergi Pictures at the time. Hopping on a private jet to Arizona, the new director and writer were introduced to the disgruntled cast and crew just hours after Jarre had been taken off the picture. Russell immediately backed Cosmatos and began working with Fasano to cut down the epic script. Retreating to the cast hotel, Fasano would work with Russell and Kilmer every night, shaping and rewriting scenes to fit the new schedule.
Jarre's original script depicted the Earp clan moving to Tombstone, setting up homes and being introduced to the bustling town. Robert Mitchum's character Old Man Clanton is more involved and we see the Cowboys battling local law enforcement from the states and Mexico. Characters are more fleshed out, especially Michael Rooker's Cowboy turned Earp supporter McMasters and Biehn's Johnny Ringo who in the film is seen a quiet, cold blooded killer but in the script comes off as more weird and anxious who turns to violence without warning. Truer to history, Wyatt forms an uneasy alliance with Curly Bill that is broken when tensions between the lawmen Earps and some of the Cowboys. Now it was Fasano's job to cut 20-30 pages that Jarre would not.
troubled and angered by their reduced roles, Val Kilmer simply said he'd sit back with his cough and little cup and steal every scene he was in. Tensions mounted on set with the new director, altered schedule and stifling heat. A reported 100 cast and crew members quit or were fired from the production.
After originally being scheduled to film for 62 days, delays stretched the production to 80 and into August with post production needing to come quickly as their December release date loomed. A two hour popcorn western came from the editing room that held together remarkably well. But Disney put little promotion behind the picture and it opened at # 3 on Christmas Eve of 1993 with a $6.4 million weekend behind repeat champs The Pelican Brief and Mrs. Doubtfire. The seemingly soft opening would put it at #51 for the year but the film garnered decent reviews and word of mouth quickly spread as grosses went up in it's 2nd weekend. Tombstone would go on to gross $56 million on a $25 million dollar budget and rank #20 for the year. Kilmer's performance was particularly singled out and has since become one of his signature roles.
Kurt Russell. Russell openly discussed the difficulties of production and bringing in Cosmatos as a ghost director. He sees the finished film as fine but feels it could have been a western Godfather if he had been able to edit it and Disney actually believed in the picture. Five time Academy Award nominated cinematographer William A. Fraker died in 2010 after a battle with cancer. History buff Kevin Jarre would work with Jacks on The Jackal and The Mummy but never recovered from the Tombstone experience and died of a heroin overdose in 2011. Jacks passed away in January of 2014, still upset that much of the film's fantastic original script ended up being cut out or left on the editing room floor. Writer/artist John Fasano died in his sleep in July after a 25 year career. Fasano would go on to work with Tombstone veterans Rooker, Biehn, Boothe and Zane among others stating that the difficult experience bonded them forever.
Enjoyable and epic in it's own right, Kevin Costner's 1994 Wyatt Earp would eventually cost more than twice as much but gross less than half than Tombstone with it's bloated 3 hour run time missing the mark with audiences to end up in DVD bargain bins. While Tombstone may not the be film it's makers originally intended, it still holds up as an entertaining, star studded and action packed affair for casual and dedicated western fans alike. It's a title that has jumped generations via cable, video and special edition DVD for Russell, Kilmer, Paxton, Boothe, Biehn and Elliott. Here's hoping we get to see the extra footage Kurt Russell has in his garage someday.